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L. Neil Smith's
Number 527, July 12, 2009

"Robert McNamara— It is good that he died."

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United Breaks Guitars
...and suitcases, and promises, and most of the Ten Commandments
The Kaptain's Log
by Manuel Miles, aka Kaptain Kanada

Attribute to The Libertarian Enterprise

Well shipmates, if you haven't seen the latest "viral video" at YouTube by now, you should do so. It's entitled "United Breaks Guitars" and recounts the sad but true story of a massacre of musical instruments by one of the many incompetent, inhuman commercial airlines.

While Nova Scotian band Dave Carroll and The Sons of Maxwell's horror story could have unfolded had they flown many another airline of the "friendly [sic] skies", they happened to be on United when the O'Hare baggage vandals attacked their expensive, custom guitars. I am sure I don't have to tell you how United's "customer service [sic again!]" responded to Mr Carroll's repeated efforts to be compensated for the cost of repairing his Taylor guitar.

So, after a year of United's indifference, contempt and stone- walling, Dave did the Canadian thing: he told the airline's Ms Irlweg that he would make and post three videos on YouTube. One can imagine the response of the bureaucrats at United; "Well, you do what you gotta do... snicker, snicker" After all, who fears retribution from obscure Canadian bands?

Well, the first video hit YouTube this week. Dave was hoping to get 1 million hits in the first year; in the first four days his video "went viral", garnering over 2 and a quarter million hits! The Sons of Maxwell are now world famous, and United Airlines is teetering on the brink of permanent obscurity.

The question which the owners and (mis)management of UA are no doubt asking themselves is why this video struck a chord not only on Dave Carroll's guitar but with the weary, huddled masses of North American airline passengers. You can be sure that neither United nor any other airlines expected this to happen. After all, they have got away with treating passengers like cattle for decades now.

No wonder I found myself singing cowboy songs today as I pondered this matter. The refrain from one such is, "Git along, little dogie, git along, git along. You know your misfortunes are none of my own. " That sums up the attitude of the drovers of customer disservice of nearly every airline in North America. I can just see Clint Eastwood in his "Rawhide" role of Rowdy Yates singing, "Rollin', rollin', rollin', keep them dogies rollin'..." That is the attitude of the airlines: we are just profitable cattle to be herded and hided.

Well, people have had enough. Many of the thousands of posts at the "United Breaks Guitars" video are calling for a boycott of UA. I am proud to count myself among those who would permanently ground the flying swine who treat us as cattle.

Those dogies who are younger than 40 years of age have grown up with this mess, but us old mavericks can remember when commercial airline travel was in its infancy, back in the early 60s. At that time, air travel was something which only the wealthy elite could afford, but as the economic and technological boom of the 1950s continued into the following decade, and as the generation of post-war baby boomers reached young adulthood, the possibility of greatly expanding the commercial airline business became a reality.

Airlines lured my generation with "Youth Fare" tickets—half fare tickets for those young people who were willing to fly "standby", which meant waiting at the departure gate to see if the plane was full. If there were spare seats, and there usually were, we youth boarded the flight. This was a good deal for young people, as it allowed us not only increased mobility, but rapid mobility. The Good Lord knows that young people like speed and movement!

To further sweeten the deal, the flights were generously staffed with pretty, slim, young stewardesses—not the ugly, obese hag "flight attendants" and homosexuals which infest the fuselages today. Those young ladies were polite, helpful, smiling and just generally pleasant. If one rang the call bell, a stewardess would appear in a trice to attend to a traveller's needs, be it a blanket and pillow or a glass of water or just a question about how to connect to another flight.

Stewardesses were actually happy to oblige as best they could. And thanks to "sexist" adverts in which alluring babes in mini-skirted "stew" uniforms purred, "Hi there! I'm Suzy! Fly me to Atlanta..." we young men were grabbed by the, uh, the... heartstrings. They did everything to get us hooked on getting high in the sky.

Fast-forward to the turn of the millennium: business and family needs now depend on air travel. The airlines know it. That's why their attitude is one of, "You need us, we don't need you; sit down and shut up. " (I believe that that is actually the official motto of Air Canada, but I haven't got round to translating it from the Latin yet.)

However, the silver lining of the recession cloud is this: the damned airlines now need us just as much as we need them. Hell, half of them are already living off taxpayers' "bailout" subsidies or, as in the case of Air Canada, are run entirely using Canadians' confiscated earnings (Air Canada is a "crown corporation"; a government- subsidised interference in the market).

In these dire times, however, with fewer people able to afford to hop a jet to Paducah or Omaha or Moose Jaw just to visit dear old Aunt Millie, the crunch is coming for the airlines. It is, therefor, an ideal time to remind them that we, the people, are not cattle. The success of the Sons of Maxwell's video presents an opportunity to organise and focus all our "air rage" effectively. I advocate that you send to everyone on your email list the link to "United Breaks Guitars" along with the link to this column and the suggestion that we all BOYCOTT UNITED AIRLINES to total, irrevocable, empty airplane bankruptcy.

Such an application of the principles of the free market just might get the message to the other airlines, or at least those which wish to survive. And if we succeed at this, the TSA could be next in our sites.

Enough is enough. It's payback time. Karma is coming. United must be destroyed.

Let's strike a blow for Peace and Liberty and decent treatment in the once-friendly skies.


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